I'll repeat my comments from four months ago (A Conservative-Ulster Unionist merger?):
But it's also a good move for not only both parties but the whole of the United Kingdom. For too long Northern Irish politics has been an isolated microcosm, with only half hearted efforts at organising by a handful of parties from both Britain and the Republic of Ireland, give or take a few small parties, and the result has been alienation and sometimes hatred, most recently when the DUP provided the majority of 42 days' detention or Iris Robinson MP's horrific comments about homosexuality.I think this still stands true and there's little on the basics that I haven't already said, other than to wonder if Labour have anything to say on this.
A party that is a strong and credible contender at all levels of Northern Irish and UK politics, that can allow for full engagement with national and international politics, can only help to move political debate forward in the province. It also helps to anchor the Conservative Party in all nations of the United Kingdom, a contrast to Labour who've had to be dragged into allowing even membership by the courts and is determined to remain a Brits only party.
Will this lead to a sudden landslide in Northern Ireland at the next election, with seats turning blue all over? Well let's not get carried away - there's a lot still to do and hundreds of thousands of voters to engage with. But it's a good start with promising signs to come.
But as there's already been the invariable attack from the Democratic Unionist Party. (News Letter: DUP attacks 'political marriage') Assembly Member Michelle McIlveen brings out the old chestnut of whether all eighteen Westminster seats will be contested at the next general election, claiming it could lead to Nationalists winning again in Belfast South and Fermanagh & South Tyrone.
I don't remember the DUP expressing this concern when they were, in their own words, "running candidates in every seat in Northern Ireland, even if it means losing Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast to anti-unionist parties". At the end of the day any party has the right to stand wherever it likes (and can get nominated) and equally has the right to not stand. Seats belong to one, and only one, group of people - the voters of those seats. By all means parties can choose where to deploy candidates, but a party that aspires to offer all voters the chance to vote for it should not step aside, especially for a party that is elsewhere trying to exterminate it.